A long while back, I posted that if you’re writing and you get bogged down, you should just write the next sentence, then write the next sentence, and so on. Soon you’ll be back in the flow of your story and you can forge ahead. There’s one proviso—that “next sentence” should come directly from your subconscious (creative) mind. In other words, you shouldn’t force it and think about it and make it read just so. You should literally JUST write the next logical sentence.
Well, sometimes when I get stuck, my fingers are poised on the keyboard, all ready to write the next sentence and— the next sentence doesn’t come. Oh crap! What now?
Sometimes you aren’t stuck. Sometimes you’re in the wrong place. Sometimes you’re trying to make something happen (conscious, critical mind) that isn’t part of the story. Remember, the real story is coming out of your subconscious mind, your creative mind.
A few days ago I found myself in exactly that situation. I had written a long (over 1800 words) but very terse opening scene. At the end of that scene, I tried to write a transition and then another scene. (“Tried” is the operative word here. When you “try,” that’s your critical mind. Ugh.) Nothing doing. There was no next sentence.
So I sat back for a moment, released all the conscious, critical mind “try” stuff that I was trying to force on the story. Then I leaned forward, put my fingers on the keyboard, and wrote the first thing that came to mind. A new scene sprang onto the page. When I felt I might bog down again, I just wrote the next sentence, wrote the next sentence. This time it worked fine. I was back in sync, allowing my subconscious creative mind to tell the story it wanted to tell. My fingers barely stopped moving for another 1892 words. Then they slammed to a stop.
Can’t fool me twice, at least not in the same story. I got up, moved around, got a glass of water and came back to the story. I put my fingers on the keyboard, wrote the first thing that came to mind, and again a new scene flew across the page. Yep, just like that. This scene was only 581 words. This time I already knew what the next scene would be, so I added a section divider (for me that’s a series of three centered, spaced asterisks) and started the next scene: that one isn’t finished yet, and it’s just under 1,000 words.
I probably will finish this story a little later today (as I write this post, October 23, 2014). First historical western I’ve written since I was a kid. These days my primary interest is in writing psychological suspense (like horror, but no slash and gash). My secondary is science fiction. My third is magic realism. Historical westerns aren’t anywhere on my list of priorities, but this is the story that wanted to be written, so this is the story I’m writing. Cool, eh?
UPDATE: If you’re signed up for my story-a-week blog over on Harvey Stanbrough & Friends you probably read it back on October 23. It was titled Adobe Walls. If you enjoy westerns, I’ve since written a second western short story based on my novels: Last Raid on Amarillo. For a few more days you can read it free at the blog.
When you get stuck in your writing, Let Go and just write the next sentence. If it won’t come, write the next scene:
- To begin a scene, write whatever comes.
- To get through the scene, write the next sentence, then write the next sentence, then write the next sentence. Don’t think about where it’s all going or even about the second or third sentence: Just write the next sentence.
- When you’re writing a scene, don’t worry about how it connects to other scenes. Just focus on that scene.
- When the scene ends, write whatever comes for the next scene (or for another scene), then write the next sentence, etc.
- Your character(s) will lead you to where you need to be.
‘Til next time, happy writing.
4 thoughts on “An Essential Tip: Just Write the Scene”
Many thanks for sharing your experiences from down in the trenches, Harvey! You answer the question, “What do I do if …?” with experience, not theory. Cool!
I enjoyed your short story, “The Raid on Amarillo,” and I thought that it begged to be a chapter. Perhaps I could express that thought better. I think it leaves a reader wanting to go on to the next chapter. I’m glad that it, too, had its turn of being the story that wanted to be written. Thanks!
Actually, that story did become one chapter from the second novel, Longing for Mexico. 🙂 Of course, it isn’t exactly the same, but very similar. That one’s published now, and will be out in print in about a week.
All good thoughts, Harvey.
I followed your suggestion and now have two computers: one, a sit-down keyboard and one, a stand up at the shelf laptop. Been busy writing the next sentence, the next sentence, the next sentence.
Thanks Sam. It just all goes back to the simple idea that a writer writes. Keep up the good work. 🙂
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